Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Is Austin Texas a good place to retire?


Today we'll start my new series of a semi-in-depth look at cities I'm interested in for a 2nd retirement home (one will likely be somewhere in Virginia near my brother-in-law...as Jeannie is adamant that she will live near him in retirement, even if for part of the year). I'm starting with Austin as it's the only city on my list (so far) that I've actually been to. And, it starts with an "A". So....A-way we go!

I could type and type from memory (HA!) thoughts from my pathetic research, but the hay with that...I just copied a big blob from the Wikipedia entry (yes, I took the EASY way out, I know!) THANK YOU Wikipedia!

Austin (About this sound pronunciation ) (/ˈɒstɨn/ or /ˈɔːstɨn/) is the capital of the US state of Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas, Austin is the 11th-most populous city in the United States and the fourth-most populous city in Texas. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in the nation from 2000 to 2006.[3] Austin is also the second largest state capital in the United States.[4] Austin had a July 1, 2013 population of 885,400 (U.S. Census Bureau estimate). The city is the cultural and economic center of the Austin–Round Rock metropolitan area, which had an estimated population of 1,883,051 as of July 1, 2013.

In the 1830s, pioneers began to settle the area in central Austin along the Colorado River. After Republic of Texas Vice President Mirabeau B. Lamar visited the area during a buffalo-hunting expedition between 1837 and 1838, he proposed that the republic's capital then located in Houston, be relocated to the area situated on the north bank of the Colorado River near the present-day Congress Avenue Bridge. In 1839, the site was officially chosen as the republic's new capital (the republic's seventh and final location) and was incorporated under the name Waterloo. Shortly thereafter, the name was changed to Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, the "Father of Texas" and the republic's first secretary of state.

The city grew throughout the 19th century and became a center for government and education with the construction of the Texas State Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin.[5] After a lull in growth from the Great Depression, Austin resumed its development into a major city and, by the 1980s, it emerged as a center for technology and business.[6] A number of Fortune 500 companies have headquarters or regional offices in Austin including Advanced Micro Devices, Apple Inc., eBay, Google, IBM, Intel, Texas Instruments, 3M, Oracle Corporation and Whole Foods Market.[7] Dell's worldwide headquarters is located in nearby Round Rock, a suburb of Austin.

Residents of Austin are known as "Austinites".[8] They include a diverse mix of government employees (e.g., university faculty and staff, law enforcement, political staffers); foreign and domestic college students; musicians; high-tech workers; blue-collar workers and businesspeople.[9] The city is home to development centers for many technology corporations; it adopted the "Silicon Hills" nickname in the 1990s. However, the current official slogan promotes Austin as "The Live Music Capital of the World", a reference to the many musicians and live music venues within the area, and the long-running PBS TV concert series Austin City Limits.[10][11]

In recent years, some Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan "Keep Austin Weird".[12] This interpretation of the classic, "Texas-style" sense of independence refers to: a desire to protect small, unique, local businesses from being overrun by large corporations.[13] In the late 1800s, Austin also became known as the City of the "Violet Crown" for the wintertime violet glow of color across the hills just after sunset.[14] Even today, many Austin businesses use the term "violet crown" in their name. Austin is known as a "clean air city" for the city's stringent no-smoking ordinances that apply to all public places and buildings, including restaurants and bars.[15]

The FBI ranked Austin as the second safest major city in the U.S. for the year 2012.[16]

This last line intrigued me...of all the things I have been thinking are important in a place to live, I never really considered the overall safety. That's an interesting fact, considering that Texas is a right to carry (concealed weapons/open carry weapons) state. On one of my first trips there I was at a subway in North Houston getting a meal before we headed south to see our little brother Dave (my big brother Greg was with me). There was a line of people waiting to order, and probably 2/3rds of them had pistols on their hips, including one nicely dressed professional looking lady. It seemed very odd for me,a California resident, where people would go into HYSTERICS if they saw you carrying a weapon in public (even though it IS legal to "Open" carry an unloaded weapon). I'm betting "bad guys" don't live long down there...home robberies, car-jackings, etc...considering the large amount of the population who is armed in some manner. They (the "bad guys" must all come to California where they're safe (sorry...got kind'a political there).

ANYWAY. Here is a month by month weather graph for the temperature and rainfall (with huge gratitude to weather.com for my poaching of their charts):


 Here's the Wikipedia bit on the climate (thanks again Wikipedia! Note: their month by month weather graph is embedded in this so just enjoy a different chart of the same thing):

 Climate
Austin
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
2.2
62
41
2
65
45
2.8
72
51
2.1
80
59
4.4
86
67
4.3
92
72
1.9
95
74
2.4
97
75
3
91
70
3.9
82
61
3
71
51
2.4
63
42
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Austin has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen: Cfa), characterized by hot summers and mild winters. Austin is usually at least partially sunny, receiving nearly 2650 hours, or 60.3% of the possible total, of bright sunshine per year.[67]
Austin summers are usually hot, with average July and August highs in the high-90s °F (34–36 °C). Highs reach 90 °F (32.2 °C) on 116 days per year, and 100 °F (37.8 °C) on 18.[68] The highest recorded temperature was 112 °F (44 °C) occurring on September 5, 2000 and August 28, 2011.[69][70][71]
Winters in Austin are mild and relatively dry. For the entire year, Austin averages 88 days below 45 °F (7.2 °C) and 13 days when the minimum temperature falls below freezing.[68] The lowest recorded temperature was −2 °F (−19 °C) on January 31, 1949.[72] About every two years or so, Austin experiences an ice storm that freezes roads over and affects much of the city for 24 to 48 hours.[72] Snowfall is rare in Austin; a 3-inch (7.6 cm) snowstorm brought the city to a near standstill in 1985.[73]
Monthly averages for Austin's weather data are shown in a graphical format to the right, and in a more detailed tabular format below.

I personally thought THIS bit (again, from Wikipedia!) is important:

Cycling
Austin is known as the most bike-friendly city in Texas and has a Silver-level rating from the League of American Bicyclists.[citation needed] There are over 80 miles of bike lanes in Austin. Over 2% of commuters get to work by bike and many more Austinites ride for daily transportation needs, according to the American Community Survey. The North Loop neighborhood along with the Manor Road area have the highest bike commuting rates, with over 13% of residents biking to work in 2012. Biking is also very popular recreation-ally with the extensive network of trails in the city.[citation needed]
The city's bike advocacy organization is Bike Austin. Bike Texas, a state-level advocacy also has its main office in Austin.[citation needed]
Bicycles are a popular transportation choice among students, faculty, and staff at the University of Texas. According to a survey done at UT, 9% of commuters bike to campus.

Back to my thoughts: Being a QUITE large city, Austin has all of the sports, theater, shopping, dining, and whatnot that anybody could possibly ask for. I guess all that's really left to cover is real-estate (as in: can we AFFORD to go there?)

Here's a link to an article (too big to post here), but overall, it's not good. Unless you're moving there from a HIGH price area (such as San Francisco, or anywhere on the north-east coast I'd imagine).

The Incredible Shrinking dollar in Austin

In a nutshell, the median priced home is around $230,000 to $240,000 (cheap by our standards here in CA, and we're not even close to San Francisco!) But for a 2nd home? (for us anyway)...that's kind'a pricey, and likely more than we would like to spend (by about $230,000 to $240,000). For us, it would be a fairly long drive between Virginia and Austin twice a year (minimum). But not as long as it could be, considering I'm also looking at places in Arizona , Utah and Oregon.

At this point I can't even rank Austin, as I have nothing to rank it against. That will come in the following weeks as I review other cities of interest. And as always, PLEASE feel free to toss out other places that I haven't mentioned. Right now I'm WIDE OPEN (and I'm not saying they have to be IN the U.S., as there are plenty of Ex-pats out there living large in great weather with a substantially cheaper cost of living...places such as Belize for one).

And don't forget: this Saturday night/Sunday morning is the evil, dreaded, horrible, stupid, ridiculous, and LAME "Fall Back" time change. And thus, it will be DARK by freaking FIVE THIRTY come Sunday evening. I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE this part of the year.

And did I mention that I think the time-change SUCKS?

Oh well....have a great weekend!

Cheers!

And btw, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Here's our pumpkins for this year (see below...we carve them the night before every year). It's always a competition between us....Jeannie did her's first and had it covered w/ the kitchen towel when I was going back and forth getting my dinner (Digorno Pizza)...and then I did mine, and THEN we light our candles and turn out the lights and can finally see each others. And I get out the tripod and take a few shots. It's as much a tradition for us as putting up Christmas decorations.

It's supposed to RAIN here for Halloween...that will be something...we haven't had any appreciable rain for about a YEAR now (not kidding) and it rains on HALLOWEEN? Poor kids...we have a LOT of candy to give out too....we always get a LOT of kids. We'll see how this year goes. So get out there and ENJOY!

BOO!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Where oh WHERE to retire?

First off, I have to admit that I'm making DISMAL progress on my backpacking writeup. And by DISMAL, I mean not very much. And by not very much, I mean zero. It's already fading away into another one of those 'did it really happen' vacations. Sure, between Greg and I we have like OVER 700 pictures. But unless I go to the file and LOOK at them, I can barely remember being up in the high Sierra less than a month and a half ago. I PROMISE that I will get working on it. Someday. When I find time (HA!).

But in the meantime, it seems we have a rather popular subject that has come up....WHERE to retire? It's a HUGE question. Jeannie and I have touched on it more than once, and up until her brother blew our "Hawaii" retirement out of the water by selling his condo and buying the VA farm, we had a plan. Now that plan is gone. The NEW plan is that when I retire (8 years from now, HOPEFULLY), we move to Richmond VA so she will be somewhat close to her brother. She will still have 5 more years of work, and she's pretty sure that won't be a problem. As for ME, the Richmond thing was NEVER in my plans. So I'm not very thrilled with the change whatsoever. I can do summers out there, but I have no intentions of doing winter. I grew up in Wyoming and Montana, and have already had enough winter for the rest of my life. I'm a "tropical" kind of guy. I like the ocean. WARM ocean. I like hills. Mountains. I like to be able to AFFORD to live (knocking out areas like San Francisco. San Jose (Silicon Valley), Washington DC....area's like that. Places where a shack cost's a fortune. And I don't want to live in a big city anyway. I like a lot of things about the San Diego area (specifically, Ocean, warm weather, hills/mountains in the area). But the high cost of living knocks it out of contention.

And so...we've been discussing some places, so today I'll list them, and start tracking temperature, WIND (I HATE WIND! After we leave here, I'll have had a LIFETIME of wind, and would like to go somewhere that it DOESN'T blow nearly every single day!). Feel free to toss out any places you've heard of or thought of....I'm WIDE open here, and can use the help! So...without further adeiu, here's the preliminary list (I've added some that I thought of since we began the topic to the list), not in any particular order:

Austin TX
I've been there twice, both for fairly short periods of time. Liked it. Hilly, hip-town (SUPER bike friendly, at least in town). 
Day/night temp for Friday: 83/63
  
Greeneville SC
Never been there, don't know anything about it other than what I've heard/read (cycling oriented, due to it being the home of Big George H). I did read an article the other day on Velo News about George's upcoming Gran Fondo, and how he's gotten a bunch of ex Postal/Discovery guys to come ride it (including the Devil, that is if USA Cycling decides he can...the ball is in their court). 
Day/night temp for Friday: 72/47

Scottsdale AZ
Never been there. Just know (from articles and such) that it attracts a lot of retirees. A bit further down in elevation than Flagstaff (ie: a bit warmer)
 Day/night temp for Friday: 92/65

Flagstaff AZ 
Same as Scottsdale, well...I have passed thru. I recall hills/Mountains in the area (good for Mt biking). Gets snow but doesn't last, one of the sunniest places in the US. 
Day/night temp for Friday: 70/40

Sedona AZ
I think this is near the Scottsdale area....somewhere in the middle of  Flagstaff and Phoenix. Good in the summer and winter I hear.
Day/night temp for Friday: 82/51
 
Portland OR
Been there for a week or so (my ship was in drydock). Liked it..but not entirely sure what it's like in the winter. It's been listed in more than a few articles about great places to retire.
Day/night temp for Friday: 60/50

Bend OR
Another place I've never been to, but I hear it's got GREAT mt and road biking. 

Day/night temp for Friday: 51/43
 
St George UT
Again, never been there. But Fatty (you know, FATTY? THE Fat Cyclist)...his friends Kenny and Heather live there...and Fatty and Hammer go there during the winter to escape the cold and ride bikes...so it can't be too bad in the winter. I have a friend who goes there to hike around and such nearly every Sept (he went this year the week before my backpacking trip...if that had been called off I would have met him there to scope out the area). I'm intrigued by this place...as it has WICKED AWESOME road and Mt biking! 
Day/night temp for Friday: 77/53

Any other places to add to the list? Any reason to take any of these off the list? I'm all ears!

I didn't have time to find the wind and such for these places. Also I already noticed (it's mid Oct) that Bend OR might be pretty chilly already...it's the coolest of the list (so far). But I'll watch it for a while before scratching it from the list. And actually I'm totally up for more places on the east coast, as I'll likely be commuting to/from Richmond to escape the cold...and driving clear across the country might be prohibitive, even if my car gets 50mpg.